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For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Ordinariate Rite: some detail from memory

I have been following the conception and birth of the new Ordinariate Rite for the use of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and witnessed it for the first just a few days ago.

The following is a summary of the detail of the Eucharist according to the Ordinariate Rite, hastily and from memory and therefore open to correction, as I heard it on Sunday. The diction and prayers lifted straight from the Book of Common Prayer I have highlighted in red. Even allowing for the fact that I have printed some of these prayers out in full in red type, it is a heavily Anglican and more specifically Book of Common Prayer influenced ritual. Even the order - note the penitential rite coming after the intercessions and before the offertory: although one could argue that this is an original Sarum influence upon the Book of Common Prayer, as the Bidding Prayers at this juncture of the Sarum Rite contained an invitation to penitence within them.

My first impression was - that I will need to hear this many more times, and let it settle in over a year at least, until any particular beauties (at first unseen) will emerge, or whether any infelicities will begin to jar. But it felt lighter than the Book of Divine Worship rite that we had been using for the last year (the interim usage). When I say "lighter" I mean that some of the plodding Novus Ordo insertions have been lifted from the audible part of the offertory, and (despite the fact that it is very obviously a liturgy spliced together, if one knows one's sources) it feels like a poetic whole that one experiences as one thing. But I think (and this I haven't yet heard) that it would be more tremendous with the Decalogue, sung (including the priestly prayers, the Gospel etc.), and above all with the Last Gospel.

UPDATE: I should add that this useful comparison is on an Anglican Use parish website in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Hilaire Belloc on Milton

Hilaire Belloc's historical studies are remarkable works, particularly his works on English authors and historical personages, because he combines a very rare combination of qualities that he brings to his criticism. I think it comes from his being raised in England and having a French father. I am prompted to say this by his study on John Milton, as Man and Poet (that there is a distinction between these two is the foundation of Belloc's book) which I found free on the World Wide Web. These qualities are:

(1) a kind of Gallic savage truthfulness that leads him to "out with it" in the most brutally unforgiving delineation of people's faults, but without malice. This leads some to call him misanthropic - witness his poem Carpe Diem for justification of this claim - but I think it is in fact the ironic French enjoyment of naked and uncomfortable truths that is coming out here.

(2) a love and understanding of the English language and the national character it embodies, not just as a great and economical prose writer, but as a critic.

(3) a detached and highly idiosyncratic political mind which combines a love of monarchy, the rights of peasantry founded on property and the ownership of the tools by which they earn their bread, and hatred of tyrannical oligarchy and the machinery of capitalism (he sees the two as tied together).

(4) this latter political understanding founded in a kind of fusion of the tradition of Anglo-Saxon liberty (which he loved) with Catholic principle and medieval political theory - and he finds justification for both in Catholic theology.

This is an unusual set of political and personal loyalties and loves hits one in the face quite dramatically when one reads his historical and biographical work. He doesn't see history in the usual English tradition (one gets to the heart of this tradition from the phrase in 1066 And All That, that Henry VIII was "a Good Thing but a Bad Man"), or see his characters through the accepted phrases about them. He seems to be utterly free of other people's accumulated mistakes and muddied thoughts: instead of talking about constitutional settlements and compromises, Belloc thinks in what he avers to be the concrete and enduring categories: Land, the Free Peasantry, the King and the Catholic Faith.

And in his book on Milton, instead of talking abstractly about his "high seriousness", he points simply to his lack of humour, and monumental selfishness. Like all of Belloc's insights, it is a shock, a jolt: always before one has heard people talk of Milton's pride, his great defect - but Belloc seems to stand outside all that talk about his pride as a defect in his character (which is otherwise left rather vague), and gets to the heart of what his character was like. It is painful, not least because all the little things one has heard about Milton but not quite imagined in a living personality suddenly fall into place, one is struck by the horrible plausibility of it, and it seems inescapable because of Belloc's unvarnished way of saying it.

Having grown up with a kind of hagiography of Cranmer and his martyrdom, I experienced the shock of Belloc's approach for the first time in full when I read Belloc's biography of Henry VIII's Archbishop. I am still not sure if Belloc's Cranmer is a wholly fair portrait, but it certainly makes me reconsider.

Which reminds me of an idea for a brief historical study that I once mentioned to a friend and which I wish someone competent would carry out. I think that the statesmen and martyrs of sixteenth century are usually badly paired off and compared. St Thomas More, for example, gets contrasted with William Tyndale (probably because they exchanged polemic). It seems more apt to me to compare More with Cranmer, and Tyndale with the Jesuit martyr Campion, a double character study of four executed men worth writing, I think. The first two were statesmen who tried to work within the corridors of power to bring about their ends and to stretch their duty of loyalty as far as they could allow; the second pair were "undercover agents", labouring and striving while hunted.

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Ordinariate Rite: It's Arrived!

You can tell how excited I am by the exclamation mark, normally a thing I abominate, in the title. Yesterday, 10th October, was the first celebration of the Ordinariate Rite at Our Lady of the Assumption, at Warwick Street, Soho. Given that it was reported in February 2012 that this was going to take five years to come about, this day has come swiftly beyond hope.

The fullest detail so far of what the Rite involves, apart from Monsignor Burnham's homily found on the Ordinariate site, is this offering from Pray Tell, which has a few critical remarks about the sources and authenticity of some of the Rite. I am not sure if this is justified: if one is going to bring together various elements, I think one is going to require some bridging material somewhere. To call it the Anglo-Catholic Dream Liturgy therefore isn't quite fair, but the phrase set me thinking of an apt piece of Coverdale's Psalter for the occasion:
When the LORDE turneth agayne the captiuyte of Sion, then shal we be like vnto them that dreame. Then shal oure mouth be fylled with laughter, and oure tonge with ioye.
Not everyone's tongue is filled with joy, though: and does it surprise that Anglicans aren't the irritated party? The Tablet's journalists picked up on what was, of course, the main point of the evening, as an occasion to check one's gender and diversity quotas: "Women at the Mass were outnumbered by men by around four to one." All I can say about that is, what a splendid sign for its future.